Microsoft Cortana, Amazon Alexa to Talk to Each Other by Fall

Today’s topics include how the rival virtual assistants Amazon Alexa and Microsoft Cortana will soon be able to take to each other; the new Windows VR gear going on display at IFA 2017 in Berlin; the new Google SDK that will allow developers to add AR features to Android apps; and the release of OpenStack Pike, which will redefine the open-source cloud platform.

Currently, leading virtual assistants like Alexa, Cortana, Apple Siri and Google Now are mostly self-contained ecosystems. Direct interoperability is practically non-existent. However, Microsoft and Amazon announced Aug. 30 that by this fall they will enable Alexa and Cortana to communicate with each other.

Windows 10 users will soon be able to ask Cortana to access Alexa to order items from Amazon, among other tasks. Amazon's Alexa, meanwhile, will be able to tap into Microsoft's growing portfolio of Cortana-enriched intelligent services for Windows and Office 365.

Andrew Shuman, corporate vice president of Cortana Engineering at Microsoft stated that "Cortana users will be able to have Alexa shop on and manage their Amazon orders…just as Alexa users will have access to Cortana's world knowledge and helpful productivity features such as calendar management, day at a glance and location-based reminders.”

During this week's IFA 2017 consumer electronics tradeshow in Berlin, Germany, Microsoft's OEM partners are showing off new hardware offerings that capitalize on the new mixed-reality capabilities in the Windows 10 operating system.

While Microsoft’s Windows-based headset HoloLens may best represent current virtual-reality capabilities, the hefty price of $3,000 a piece may be too much of a stretch for cost-conscious organizations and most households.

Now Microsoft is promising more budget-friendly, albeit tethered, options to choose from in time for the holiday season.

These include the Dell Visor, with a weight-balancing system that relieves pressure while using the headset and a flip-up visor that gets out of the way with ease, and the lightweight Windows Mixed Reality headset by Asus, which also features six degrees of motion tracking.

Google has released a preview version of a new software development kit that will let developers add augmented reality capabilities to existing and upcoming Android applications.

Augmented reality technologies give users a way to enhance or to augment live views of a physical environment with digitally generated images and sound.

The new ARCore SDK works on any Android device running version 7.0 Nougat of the mobile operating system or a later edition. It is currently available for use on Google's Pixel and Samsung's Galaxy S8 Android smartphones, but will be supported on close to 100 million devices by the end of the preview period.

Google is currently working with multiple device manufacturers including Samsung, LG, Asus and Huawei about enabling support for ARCore.

The OpenStack Foundation introduced its 16th milestone release today with the launch of the OpenStack Pike cloud infrastructure platform. Pike follows the OpenStack Ocata release which came out in February and had a focus on cloud federation.

Unlike Ocata, the new Pike release has a particular emphasis on enabling standalone OpenStack services, without the need for an entire set of OpenStack projects.

For several years, the OpenStack community debated a definition for a common set of projects, known as Defcore, that define the components of an OpenStack cloud.

Mark Collier, chief operating officer of the OpenStack Foundation, said that the model for OpenStack usage and deployment is continuing to evolve with Pike. "What we are still doing with the Defcore approach is defining what it means at a basic level to say that a product or service is OpenStack-powered,” Collier said.